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Aruba

INTRODUCTION

“Welcome to Aruba,” reverberates across the shore as tanned-skinned natives greet tourists from beneath thatched-roof bars dotted along the beach. It's reminiscent of a commercial. A scared iguana scampers across the sand on its hind legs resembling a mischievous alien from a B movie.

Divi Divi? trees wave their welcome to visitors as they bow at a 45-degree angle in permanent obeisance to the warm manipulation of the trade winds.

Located 18 miles off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba touts an average temperature of 82 degrees and an annual rainfall of less than 20 inches, making it a paradise for outdoor lovers. The constant trade winds lend an enthusiastic hand to the sun, enabling tanners to brown without roasting. Snorkelers and divers can see forever and every day is clear.

HISTORY

Discovered by the Spanish in 1499 and taken over by the Dutch in 1936 after a period of habitation by the Arawak Indians, native Arubans boast a mix of Spanish, Dutch and Arawak Indian ancestry. The official language is Dutch, although the common language is Papiamento, a mixture of Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish, with a sprinkling of French, English and African. Communication is not a problem, however, as most Arubans speak English as well as Spanish. Measuring approximately 19.6 by six miles, with an area of 70 square miles, Aruba is an intimate island with friendly residents who are easy to get to know.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Climate: Wonderfully warm weather all year. Great for lazy days at the beach.

Capital: Oranjestad

Languages: English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento

Currency: Guilder - Currently 1 AWG = 0.5587 USD

Time Zone: UTC-4

Power: 127 V, 60 Hz

ATTRACTIONS

RESTAURANTS

Aruban cuisine, like its people, is diverse, with the biggest influence coming from its neighbor South America. Sweet potatoes, fish, corn and bananas are commonly integrated into the various island dishes.

Because of the dry climate, however, Aruba is rather fallow in the agricultural arena, importing most fresh fruits and vegetables from its neighbor Venezuela. Don’t fret however because there is never a shortage of fresh vegetables and fruits available at the popular downtown market in Oranjestad.

One of the most popular island fruits is the Plantain—which resembles a banana on steroids. However, be careful not to mistake this cousin to the banana, as ready to eat. The plantain must always be cooked and can be steamed, fried, boiled, baked or even grilled. Plantain is a wonderful accompaniment to most dishes.

Since most residents enjoy a reasonably priced dinner at midday at work, the restaurant business is booming and many restaurateurs enjoy spending their evenings serving up native dishes to the tourists, although all types of cuisine are available. Mention Keshi Yena in any part of the world and you’re likely to encounter a few blank stares and maybe the occasional Gesundheit! But ask for Keshi Yena in Aruba and you’ll be rewarded with a big smile and a culinary delight just this side of heaven.

Aruba prides itself on its local cuisine and Keshi Yena (filled cheese shell) is just one of its shining stars. This dish is an Antillean specialty consisting of a hollowed-out ball of Gouda that is stuffed full with such goodies as chicken, raisins, green olives, capers and scallions. Gouda is plentiful and inexpensive in Aruba due to the island’s ties to the Dutch.

Among other Aruban delights is funchi. Expect to be served this at least once during your visit. Similar to our corn meal mush, Italian polenta or Jewish matzo balls, funchi is made with corn meal, prepared various ways, but commonly sliced and fried. Funchi is to Aruba what rice is to the Orient and can be served alongside whatever entree may be on the menu for the evening.

Another Aruban specialty is the foot of the small sea snail that snuggles tightly inside the shell of the Conch shell—which aren’t just for listening to the ocean anymore! Don’t walk away from this delectable delicacy! Conch meat is extremely sweet and delicious, but must NOT be overcooked and fishermen advise first-time conch cookers to pound, pound, pound in order to achieve the most savory, tender results. Some cooks even swear by pressure cooking AS WELL AS pounding to ensure that each bite is as tender as a politician seeking re-election.

It’s no wonder this small stretch of land known as Aruba is called “One Happy Island.” It’s entirely possible to eat your way across it and maybe even respond to each one of the only 65,000 friendly residents waving Bonboni (welcome) along the way.

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